NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson made a plea Thursday for people to get the “life-saving” COVID-19 vaccination as the Titans’ virus outbreak grew to nine including quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“We’ve had two people that I know personally that have lost loved ones over the last couple of days to COVID from symptoms and complications," Robinson said. “And it’s a lifesaving vaccine.”
Robinson said Tannehill, tight end Geoff Swaim and linebacker Justin March-Lillard joined four other players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Tannehill practiced Tuesday and talked to reporters afterward.
That makes three Titans starters out. Coach Mike Vrabel revealed Thursday afternoon on a Zoom session with reporters that special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman also has been affected, missing the past two days of work, and likely missing Saturday night's preseason finale against Chicago (1-1).
The Titans GM said the team is close to being either 97% or 98% vaccinated or with antibodies present, indicating a person recently or previously had COVID-19. Tannehill said at the start of training camp that he was in the process of being vaccinated.
Vrabel announced Sunday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 a day after the Titans beat Tampa Bay 34-3 in Florida following two days of joint practices with the Bucs. He later received monoclonal antibodies treatment.
He said Thursday he is proud of the team's vaccination rate and that being vaccinated appears to have helped ease symptoms both for himself and Tennessee players.
“It is important because there is no fail safe,” Vrabel said. “We’ve proven that. All we can try to do is maximize our ability to stay safe, to function as a team, to keep our families safe, to do our jobs and do them well.”
Vrabel will miss Saturday's game because he has yet to test negative even once. Matt Barkley, who signed with the team Aug. 5, will start against the Bears and rotate with Logan Woodside every two series as they compete to back up Tannehill.
Tennessee stepped up precautions and required masks inside the team’s headquarters starting Tuesday. Robinson said the Titans are going “above and beyond” what they did last season when they had the NFL’s first virus outbreak.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases have been rising in both Florida and Tennessee. Robinson's oldest daughter, Taylor, has several auto-immune issues, including Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Robinson said they see the spread outside their team in Tennessee.
“My sister’s a school teacher back in Union City, and she said it’s rampant in their school and they’re doing everything they can ...,” Robinson said. “I think everybody’s doing everything they can to try to help it. And the biggest thing is the vaccination, because it does save lives.”
Being vaccinated made him feel safe going out to dinner while in Florida last week.
“If you do contract it and you’re vaccinated, it looks like the science has shown that you’re sick for a day or two and then you’re going to get through that," Robinson said. “So there’s comfort in going out to dinner and trying to get back to some degree of normalcy, which we all want to do. And I know that the vaccine helps.”
NFL and NFL Players Association protocols require two negative tests over 48 hours for someone who tested positive can return or face a 10-day minimum quarantine.
Reserve offensive lineman Kendall Lamm, has asthma and said he has been vaccinated because he wants to live a long life and have a family and children.
“The protocols and stuff they do here, they're on it,” Lamm said of the Titans. "They're on it top notch and I truly appreciate that because for someone who has asthma, it lets me sleep better at night.
Linebacker Harold Landry was the first starter affected by this latest virus outbreak, going on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.
The others on the list include defensive lineman Anthony Rush, linebacker Nick Dzubnar and running back Jeremy McNichols. The reserve/COVID-19 list is for players who either test positive for the virus or are in quarantine after close contact with an infected person.
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